Euro Qualifier Report: Greece 2 - 1 Republic of Ireland

Matt Doherty sent off in the dying embers of the Greek defeat

Matt Doherty sent off in the dying embers of the Greek defeat Credit: Conor Ryan (ETPhotos)

View Gallery from our photographer Conor Ryan who was in Greece to capture the action

Gustavo Poyet's team kept Greek hopes alive of finishing in the top three, making it two wins from two in Group B. Each half saw goals from Tasos Bakasetas and Giorgos Masouras, which proved to be the difference as Greece moved into second place in the group. It was a fitting reward for a dominant display in front of their fans.

However, it was yet another damaging loss for the Republic of Ireland. Despite drawing level in the first half through Nathan Collins, they forfeited any chances of a result with a directionless performance. Questions must be asked of Kenny, as his formation setup and selection did not pay off.

Stephen Kenny made three changes from the narrow loss to France in the opening game. Darragh Lenihan replaced Dara O’Shea in a back three, Adam Idah was selected to partner Evan Ferguson upfront in place of Michael Obafemi, and due to Seamus Coleman's injury, Callum O’ Dowda was used as a wing-back alongside Matt Doherty. Gustavo Poyet made two changes from the win in Gibraltar, bringing Dimitris Kourbelis and Vangelis Pavlidis into the side in place of Manolis Siopis and Giorgos Giakoumakis.

The home side immediately took the offensive. They put the visitors under pressure with crosses into the area, and Konstantinos Mavropanos volleyed a hook over his shoulder as the ball came back out to him. It was headed to the top corner until Gavin Bazunu reached out to tip it over the bar. He was forced into another save when Tasos Bakasetas' shot was deflected off Matt Doherty and palmed over by the Southampton keeper. Giorgos Masouras then had an effort blocked when Josh Cullen gave away possession just outside the area.

The pressure was mounting and Ireland cracked. Initially, Bazunu had denied Masouras when a ball over the top by Dimitris Kourbelis caught out the Irish back-line. The play was called for a VAR check in the build-up as Callum O’ Dowda was shown to have handled the ball from a George Baldock cross. Bakasetas stepped up to slot it straight down the middle and give the Greeks the lead.

Ireland responded almost immediately as Adam Idah played a clever ball for O’Dowda before his cross to Will Smallbone was cut out. It was the latter who was at the heart of the Ireland equalizer though. Smallbone’s corner was swung into the area to be flicked on by Evan Ferguson in the center towards the back post. Nathan Collins had been charging in to meet the ball perfectly and slam it home. After being initially ruled offside, it was awarded on another VAR check.

However, Greece responded better to the equalizer. Both Pelkas and Bakasetas had good opportunities after the Irish defense failed to clear their lines. Bazunu was again called to the rescue. The Irish were hanging on at this stage just before the break. They almost manufactured a lead goal through a Smallbone set piece. Idah, however, was unable to control the chance.

At half-time, Kenny opted to change to a 3-4-3 formation, with Smallbone and Michael Johnstone tasked with supporting Ferguson and halting the Greek full-backs. Yet, they had not learned their lesson. Slack defending allowed Bakasetas the space to pick a pass into the feet of Masouras, who was allowed room to turn and sweep a shot into the bottom corner, beating Bazunu.

Ireland was struggling badly as Greece opted to lie deep in numbers and hit them on the break. Too often their passing was predictable and slow. A rare moment of good movement saw Cullen get the ball down the line and into the path of Doherty. His cross was wasted as only substitute James McClean was the only white shirt in the box. Ireland’s best chance came after some uncharacteristically neat play from the front players. It came back out to Collins who almost landed his second of the night with a fierce drive from outside the area. Odisseas Vlachodimos was equal to it though.

The home side was looking more likely to extend their lead. Again it came via loose play. McClean coughed up possession to Baldock whose cross found Taxiarchis Fountas in the area. His attempt was blocked by Doherty.

One final chance came to the wing-back as the game approached injury time. After Troy Parrott was fouled, the ball was played into the area for John Egan to knock it down. Collins left it to Doherty who tried to place it. However, it lacked the power to trouble the keeper.

Doherty's night worsened in the final minute as he received his marching orders for a clash with Kostas Tsimikas following a foul by Michael Obefemi.

The final whistle brought celebration for the home fans, while Kenny remonstrated with the officials. He must have known in his mind how poor his side was. They must respond in style when they take on Gibraltar in Dublin on Monday at 19.45. Greece will face off with the World Cup finalists in Paris on the same evening.